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ECO certification for hotels and farmhouses

Sector:
Hotel and restaurant
Type:
Support in obtaining Environmental Certification and labelling scheme
Target group:
SME, Large company
Resources:
Energy, Water, Waste
Where is this support available:
Malta

The ECO certification is the national scheme for ensuring the environmental, socio-economic, and cultural sustainability of hotels and farmhouses in Malta, and has been recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council as fully reflecting the GSTC criteria. The scheme was launched by the Malta Tourism Authority in 2002 and today represents approximately 16 % of hotel accommodation.

ECO certification aims to improve hotels' sustainable performance, focusing on energy efficiency, reducing water consumption, waste management and green procurement. The scheme also aims to increase sustainable awareness among employees as well as hotel guests. There are 51 mandatory criteria and 38 voluntary criteria; hotels must satisfy all mandatory criteria as well as 50 % of the voluntary criteria to obtain certification.

The Malta Tourism Authority periodically issues calls for applications. Companies must pay a € 350 fee, and then go through an auditing procedure. The certification is valid for two years, and needs to be renewed afterward. An audit is conducted for each re-accreditation. In case the hotel fails to meet the requirement during the audit, it is provided with an action plan to solve the issues. A second audit is then conducted, free of charge. Many of the criteria require little or no investment, such as the creation of a sustainability policy, setting environmental goals, appointing an ECO coordinator, attending training seminars, informing guests about the hotel’s environmental management programme, etc. Although some of the criteria may require investment, such as introducing low-power light bulbs or water-saving devices, in the long run this results in significant cost-savings for the hotel.

In general, eco-labels are gaining value within the hospitality industry both for marketing and attracting corporate business, as well as from a financial perspective. ‘Green’ operations result in higher profitability for hotels thanks to lower energy bills, reduced water consumption, waste reduction, etc. According to a study conducted among ECO certified hotels, the key benefit of the scheme cited by 76 % of respondents was ‘cost minimisation and more efficient use of resources’, closely followed by the benefit of having a competitive edge over non-certified hotels (71 %). ECO certified hotels also found that participating in the scheme has helped to increase environmental awareness among staff and guests and contributed to a cleaner environment. The scheme is also seen as a tool to improve certain aspects of operations.

Hotels also benefit from increased customer satisfaction, given that environmental awareness of travellers is increasing. Research conducted by the Malta Tourism Authority (2009) shows that almost one out of every two tourists interviewed attributed high levels of importance to environmental issues when booking accommodation, while almost 57 % say they are willing to pay an average of 8 % more for a ‘green’ hotel.

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